Since 2020, The Big Legal Lesson has been starting conversations about the law in schools across England and Wales.
Understanding society, the justice system, and rights and responsibilities is a key part of nurturing young people into informed and active citizens – but exploring such complex topics in class can be difficult. That’s where The Big Legal Lesson comes in.
As the UK’s largest legal education campaign, it has already helped thousands of educators confidently introduce legal concepts in a fun and age-appropriate way.
In the case of Nottingham High School, it was the students themselves that led these vital discussions about the law with their younger peers.
We spoke to Muskan (a Year 12 student), Rebecca (Head of Careers) and Alex (PSHE Coordinator) to find out how they used The Big Legal Lesson resources.
Why did your school want to get involved in The Big Legal Lesson to begin with?
Rebecca: As Head of Careers, I knew that we had a lot of students (particularly in Year 12) who were really interested in law and legal careers of all sorts. I signed up on their behalf and downloaded The Big Legal Lesson resources!
The Big Legal Lesson is intended as a starting point for both students and teachers. Had you taught about the law before? What does law education look like at Nottingham?
Alex: Part of our PSHE curriculum is “Living in the Wider World”. In Year 9 they do a section on the law, but this is delivered from the point of view of what happens at a trial. For example, they learn about juries, witnesses and forensics – the technical side.
I was keen to use The Big Legal Lesson resources because they deal with how you might interact with the law on a day-to-day basis.
You used an innovative teaching model, with sixth-form students delivering The Big Legal Lesson to their younger peers. Could you tell us how you did this?
Muskan: We wanted to get as many people as possible to get involved in The Big Legal Lesson, so we delivered an introductory assembly that anyone could come along to and find out more. The interested students then attended a session I ran using the PowerPoint and other materials that Young Citizens provided.
The interactive activities really did work to engage the students and check that they understood what we were telling them. It was great that it contained case studies of a student who was also sixteen, so that they could relate to what they were learning.
Most of us don’t quite realize how the law affects us, so the activity about how many laws you encounter during a typical school day (from eating your cereal to getting on the school bus) was really interesting.
Getting other students interested in the law has been quite hard, but I think The Big Legal Lesson got them to see that law is not all what they perceive it to be. There’s a lot more to it.
Were the resources easy to pick up and deliver?
M: Yes definitely. The PowerPoint had everything laid out step by step, and I also think the accompanying pack with all the worksheets was really helpful and easy to follow.
A: I must interject at this point to say that we, as teachers, had no input in planning or delivering the sessions! These very capable and interested students were able to facilitate The Big Legal Lesson pretty much on her own.
What do you think the youngest students got out of the experience?
M: I think having the confidence to share their ideas, and responding to open-ended questions such as “How do you think the law benefits you?” There are lots of discussion elements to The Big Legal Lesson, so it really got students to think more deeply about what they would say.
A: I like the way it challenged “black-and-white” thinking. There was a conversation about whether stealing was right or wrong. In what context might it be understandable? Should somebody be punished if they’re feeding their family? It was interesting to see how they kind of started to think: “Yeah, maybe we’re not always right in what we say, and we’re not always wrong – maybe there’s grey areas.” It was really powerful to see students start to think critically.
From a students’ perspective, why is it important to learn about the law in school?
M: My interest was generated from a PSHE speaker that came in recently. He stressed that there are so many times in our day-to-day lives we unintentionally breach the law, even though we like to think of ourselves as law abiding citizens.
It was also interesting to discover that the law is so much more than just courts and judges. Things like going out to the supermarket and buying a bottle of milk are a legal contract. A lot of people don’t realize that.
From a teachers’ perspective, why do you think students should learn about the law in school?
A: As a PSHE coordinator, I see it with my “personal development hat” on, with the aim of sending young people out to be effective grown-ups. The law interweaves with everything that they do. Being knowledgeable and able to recognize what legal and illegal (or safe and unsafe) behaviours are all ties in with their moral and ethical outlook. It helps them to be informed citizens as they grow up. It is part of their rounded understanding of the world and how they interact with it.
R: My interest in helping students with careers is based on coming through the education system myself. I was channelled down routes without enough information to make my own decisions and getting to various points and thinking: “somebody else chose those A-Levels for me; somebody else chose that degree for me”. I believed at the time I was giving myself maximum flexibility and choice. In retrospect, you end up at a point where you think: “How in the world did I get to this point not having seriously considered all the other things?”.
I think law suffers in the same way as subjects like accountancy, which suffers from there having been a Monty Python sketch about it. I think law suffers from bad press and the misconception that lawyers are all very highly paid commercial lawyers who don’t have your best interests at heart. To learn about it from different people and different perspectives is really important.
It’s hard to persuade young people that it’s interesting – but that’s why the work that Young Citizens is doing is so good, because it’s real and makes the law fun and engaging.
The Big Legal Lesson takes place from 11th – 22nd March 2024. Register your interest here.